Annalena Baerbock, 40, has been chosen by The Greens to be their candidate in the forthcoming German elections in September. With the incumbent Ms Merkel deciding not to seek reelection after 16 years in power, Germany is set to have a new Chancellor. The Greens are tipped to be part of a coalition government by many political analysts, with opinion polls showing strong support for the party.
In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) newspaper, Ms Baerbock appeared to dash Ukrainian hopes of a quick accession to both NATO and the EU, while discussing the current crisis between Kiev and Moscow.
She told the newspaper: “The message to Moscow should be like this: sovereign states themselves decide the issue of their alliances.
“This also includes the prospect of Ukraine in the EU and NATO.
“But you cannot take the third step before the first, and, of course, not in a situation where there is a tough conflict with Russia.”
She then added: “Stabilisation is a priority now.
“Anyway, steps towards NATO membership are unrealistic in advance.”
Her comments come after Vladimir Putin decided to deescalate tensions with Ukraine by ordering a partial withdrawal of troops from border areas at the end of last week.
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Similarly, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Germany called on its leaders to help expedite Kiev’s NATO accession.
Andriy Melynyk told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag: “In particular, Germany, which bears a special historical responsibility for the Nazis’ crimes against the Ukrainian people, must play the role of a pioneer so that Ukraine can become a NATO member.
“And as soon as possible, without any” ifs “and” buts.”
Mr Putin sees the Western military alliance as a hostile force and has repeatedly warned Kiev against seeking full NATO membership.